Pat Tursi is hoping a Lenten prayer is answered by Cardinal Dolan’s visit to the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers March 28.
Ms. Tursi is the CEO of the nation’s largest post-acute care center for medically complex children with 169 beds, including 65 for children on ventilators.
Fifty-two residents will turn 21 by 2024, and they will no longer be eligible for care in the center once they turn 22, according to state regulation. Thirty percent of the residents die within 14 months after aging out of the facility because of lack of long-term care options meeting their specialized needs, according to a release from the center sponsored by the Sisters of Charity Ministry Network and supported by the St. Elizabeth Seton Children’s Foundation.
Ms. Tursi and center officials are seeking to respond to this crisis by building a center, for adults on an adjacent piece of land, a project that will cost $45 million.
“We need to get a lead gift to start out the campaign, and that’s what we’re really seeking,” Ms. Tursi told CNY. “We’ve gone to select foundations who have a special heart about the work we’re doing, the children and their needs. This is our Lenten prayer to get that lead gift and move forward.
“Cardinal Dolan can help us get the word out there. The cardinal being here today said he’s going to do everything in his power to help.”
Ms. Tursi said two residents are turning 22 this year, and the staff is working to keep those two in the center for treatment.
“We will not discharge them if they’re unable to thrive in life, survive and have the quality care they have here,” Ms. Tursi said.
“Medical advances have allowed children with disabilities and complexity to survive, which is great. We just need a society to catch up with technologies and what’s really transformed. We’re absolutely the ones to do it. We just need help.”
Renee Kelly was watching her 13-year-old daughter Sophie receive therapy in the Aquatic Therapy Center.
“All of the therapies expose her to different things she would not be exposed to at home,” said Renee, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“Sophie just smiles all the time. It lights up a room. She’s very sweet and easy-going. She’s a special girl because she’s my first born and she’ll always in my heart for that.”
Cardinal Dolan visited the Aquatic Therapy Center on his tour of the facility, which included stops at the John A. Coleman School and St. Elizabeth Ann Chapel. The tour followed a meeting with residents, their families and staff in a boardroom. The cardinal was presented with gifts, including a handmade card.
“Jesus is very much alive here,” said Cardinal Dolan in the boardroom. “I’m very honored to be in his presence and I’m very honored to be in your presence.”
Cardinal Dolan was joined by retired Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh; Father Arthur Mastrolia, pastor of St. Anthony’s parish in Yonkers; and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities.
“The visit was just magnificent,” Msgr. Sullivan said. “It was an example of again as Cardinal Dolan would say the love of Jesus reaching out to so many different types of people.
“Obviously, the children who are here have certain challenges which a lot of other children don’t have, but those children are made in God’s image and likeness. Therefore, we need to be as compassionate as possible, we need to help them live their lives with dignity and we need to consider them as part of our family.”
Cardinal Dolan was present for the groundbreaking ceremony for the center, which opened in 2012, and officials hope that he will return.
“It was an amazing day of grace, joy, beauty and love,” Ms. Tursi said. “He reaffirmed what we sort of know in our hearts, but it’s really great for our cardinal to come and see our children and families, to bless them and to speak about the wonderful work here, the love of the families to their children and the importance of our mission.
“But beyond that, children with disabilities and medical complexity often get put aside. Here at Elizabeth Seton, they’re front and center.”